WARNING

This story details explicit gay sex between men, teens and boys. If you find this kind of thing distasteful, or if you are underage wherever you live, then stop reading this now, and delete this file. The story is completely fictional; the author does not condone or encourage any of the acts contained herein.

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Craigslist

Chapter 92

By: Tim Keppler

 Edited by: Bob Leahy

"How about because he's an idiot?" I ask, laughing sarcastically. "How about because he's a moron? How about because he couldn't find his ass with a flashlight and a stink meter?" It's the last comment that causes Kenny to spit his tea back into his cup, laughing hysterically. "Steve Smith was the campaign manager for Proposition 8. He was the one who advised Shanon Mintner, Geoff Kors, Lorri Jean, and Kate Kendall not to talk about faggots in their advertising against the measure. You can't show actual faggots, he reasoned, because the public at large doesn't like faggots. They'll buy into equal marriage rights as a vague concept, but they'll never buy into actual faggotry. Remember how Harvey Milk framed his arguments against the Briggs initiative back in 1978? He didn't duck the gay issue. He talked about it openly. Smith thinks that being gay is shameful, and not something we should talk about. He's an idiot, a straight idiot. This is post Will and Grace, for god's sake. The heteros have figured out that we exist."

"But he had demographics showing that gay issues weren't popular with Hispanics and Blacks."

"That doesn't mean we shouldn't be talking about them, that we shouldn't be exposing them. You're espousing that we go back into the closet."

This is another of the political discussions that Kenny and I have endlessly. Neither of us is necessarily passionate about the side of the argument we take. It's just a way to exercise our gray matter. I can imagine that it must be sort of fun to watch. You have to understand the tableau, though. We're all in the living room. It's after dinner. Kenny and I are facing each other in chairs, and on the sofa between us are Jason, Dinh, Bryce and Brett, who is Bryce's boyfriend. As we argue, the heads of the people on the sofa move between Kenny and me. It's almost cartoonish. It's like a tennis match. Thim is on Dinh's lap, and is laughing as he watches us. He's the only one who gets it. He's the only one who knows this is funny. Bryce and Brett look very grave. Dinh is trying to follow the discussion, and Jason has a sort of ironic smile on his face. Finally, Thim lets out a shriek and a laugh. Then he starts to giggle. Jason reaches over and tickles him. "Do you think your daddies are silly, Thim?" he asks. Thim laughs, as if on cue. "You're right. They're pretty silly. You're such a perceptive boy!" This has us all laughing. "Don't worry," Jason says to Brett, "we do this all the time. Politics, especially when it involves gay issues, runs pretty hot in this house. Mostly it's these two who go at it," he says pointing to Kenny and me, "but we all sort of get involved. Feel free to weigh in, but you'd better have your facts straight, because they will."

"I think I'll just watch for a while," Brett says, cautiously. Jason nods with a laugh.

Brett arrived a week ago. He says he came for a visit. None of us knows what "a visit" means. I don't really care. He can stay as long as he wants as far as I'm concerned. I can't really read the dynamics between Bryce and Brett right now. I mean, they're cordial, and have kissed a bit, but I don't read...passion. Did I expect to? I don't know. Bryce has told me he's "basically a virgin." I'm not sure what that "basically" means. I don't think he's prevaricating. This isn't a Bill Clinton moment. "I've never had sex with that woman." If anything, I think he's erring on the other side of the truth. He's defining sex too broadly. Given his baptist background, I suspect that Bryce sort of thinks of kissing as sex. So, when he says he's "basically a virgin," I suspect that he's kissed before, but that's probably it. They're a cute couple. Bryce, in my humble opinion, is a lot cuter than Brett, but there's no accounting for taste. Brett is tallish. He's maybe 6'2" or something. He's got mousy-brown hair, and brown eyes. He's not really my type, but... The trouble is, I just don't really read...love...between them. As we were lying in bed a couple of days after Brett arrived, I asked Jason what he thought.

"I don't see attraction," he said, simply. "I think they'll be friends."

I think he's right. There's no spark, no magnetism that I can discern. And sure enough, after another week with us, Brett leaves for home. Bryce is a little blue.

"Are you alright, sweetie? Are you just missing Brett?"

"No," he answers. "We're through. I think he dumped me, or maybe we dumped each other. We're not together anymore."

I hug him. "And, how do you feel about that?"

He rolls his eyes, while laughing ruefully. "You're sounding like Magda, Dr. Jacobs. You've got to forgive me, Tim. You've got to stop assuming that I'm going to try to kill myself again."

I nod, slowly. "I probably do, but...I don't know...how. If I agree to that, will you agree to tell me the next time you get that depressed? Will you say `I'm so depressed that I'm thinking of suicide?'"

He gives me a long, long look, and those luminous green eyes bore into me. I think he wants to smile, but ultimately he doesn't. "Yes," he says. "If it ever happens again, I'll tell you first. I'll let you try to talk me out of it."

I nod. "But, I'm serious. Whose idea was the breakup?"

Bryce thinks for a couple seconds. "I honestly don't know. I guess it was both of ours. I think we both concluded that there wasn't enough love between us to sustain a relationship. And, he wants to live in Wisconsin, where he's from. I want to...umm...live here."

"In California."

"No, actually...here. With you all."

"That's sweet, Bryce. We love you too," I say, smiling, giving him a hug.

As we're chatting, the front door opens, and in bounces Robbie, his suitcase in hand. He drops the suitcase in the entryway, shuts the door, and launches himself across the room to land in my lap for a big hug. "It's so good to see you!" he exudes. "I've missed you so much!"

Robbie has been away from us for about eight months. After completing his B.S. in applied mathematics at the University of Chicago, he came to San Jose to find Cliff. That was when he discover that Cliff had been murdered in a jewelry store robbery. Robbie was devastated, and I think his sadness was what led him to admit that he had no interest in applied mathematics. What he wanted to be was a chef. We quickly got him enrolled at the California Culinary Academy, a world-class cooking school in San Francisco. He graduated from their culinary arts program with highest honors, and then worked for a short time in their restaurant. Then, based on the recommendation of the head of the Academy, he got the chance of a fucking lifetime. He was asked to accept an eight-month internship at The French Laundry in Napa by Thomas Keller himself. The French Laundry is considered by many to be one of the top ten or so restaurants in the world, and Keller to be among the best of the best when it comes to innovation and superb culinary execution. It's nearly impossible to get a reservation there because the restaurant is taking reservations from literally all over the world. I've eaten there once. I had to wait seventeen months to get in. It was sublime, absolutely exquisite. I had a Wild Mushroom Risotto with Saffron, Lamb Chops that had been rubbed with some combination of middle-eastern herbs, and Stir-fried Bok Choi. I have no idea why that Bok Choi was so good, but it was truly exceptional. For dessert, I had a Mexican Flan like none I've ever had. The texture was so smooth and creamy. The meal was absolutely unbelievable, and I mean that literally. It was not to be believed. To be invited by Keller himself to intern with the restaurant will absolutely make Robbie's career. Every five-star restaurant in the world will be fighting to attract him as their executive chef.

"How was it?" I ask Robbie.

"That man is just amazing. I learned more from him in eight months than I learned in all my time at the Academy. He is just so...precise, so...fastidious. And, he's an amazing friend. He wanted me to stay on as their Chef de Cuisine, but I've gotten another offer." He is beaming. "Paolo's in San Jose wants me as their executive chef. And you just won't believe what they're willing to pay me. It's just..."

Suddenly, he catches sight of Bryce. "I'm sorry," he says. "Hi. I'm Robbie."

"Bryce," Bryce says, extending his hand. "Good to meet you."

"Robbie lives here, too," I say with a smile. I wink at Bryce. "Yeah, I know. It seems like most of San Jose lives here. He's been with us for a couple of years. We love him, too." Looking at Robbie. "Umm...are you cooking tonight?"

He nods, happily.

"Jase!" I call. Jason wanders out from the back of the house, sees Robbie, and runs to him, hugging him mightily. "Guess who's cooking tonight?"

"Not me," Jason says with a laugh. "This is a Kenny night."

"Kenny!" I shout.

Kenny emerges from the back garden, sees Robbie, and races for a hug. "Robbie's cooking tonight."

"Yeessss!" he says, happily. "You gonna show us what Thomas Keller has taught you?"

"If you'll take me to the market."

"Let's go!"

"Umm...before you boys run out of the house, let me formalize the introductions. Bryce, this is Robbie. He lived with us for some time before going off to study with one of the finest chefs in the world. Robbie, this is Bryce. He lives at Evan's place and works with me at the Center. He is our top draw there. He pulls standing-room-only crowds, nearly 200 people, at every session. He's that good."

"Wow! That's amazing," Robbie says.

Bryce smiles shyly. "Tim exaggerates."

"Not by very damned much," I aver.

"So," Robbie says, smiling, "can I come home? Do you still have room for me?"

"Always, Robbie. It wouldn't seem like a family without you. I think we're going to have to add another leaf to the dining table, though," I say, giggling. "It's getting a little tight. So, are you taking the job at Paolo's?"

"Probably."

"Is it the best restaurant choice? I've never been especially impressed with it."

"Exactly! But, what would it be like with a new executive chef, a new menu, and a new marketing team?"

"Could be nice."

"I'd be taking something that's so-so, and making it my own. Maybe it could be the `top draw' on the San Jose restaurant scene. It's not going to be The French Laundry. I'm no Thomas Keller. But, I'll bet it could compete with Il Fornaio, or Eulipia."

"If that's what we've put you through school to compete with, I'm going to be seeing a lot of you in the basement," I say, giggling. Robbie doesn't giggle. I see longing pass across his face, longing and just a tinge of excitement. "Later," I say. "Go get your groceries."

Once Kenny and Robbie are gone, and Jason is out in the garden, Bryce looks across at me. He looks awkward and a little lost. "Umm...can I ask something a little...strange?"

"Sure."

"What did you mean when you said you'd be seeing Robbie in the basement?"

I give Bryce a long look. The comment about the basement just slipped out. I haven't leveled with Bryce about us. I'm guessing he's heard...noises. I owned up to my three husbands, but I've never discussed with him what we...umm...do together. Why? I wasn't sure how a good baptist boy would handle that. I probably should have trusted him more. I probably should have given him more credit for his ability to accept us as we are, given his recent experiences. But, after his near suicide, I was concerned about his...mental health. So, I'm now in the position of having to tell him who we are long after he thought he knew that. If you think about it, it's like coming out all over again. But, why is that? Why do people care what other people do in the privacy of their home? I've never felt awkward about this before. Why do I feel awkward about it now? Why does this seem like a "confession"? The answer, I guess, is because at some level I love this boy. I don't want to "disappoint" him. But, if he's genuinely disappointed, if he stops loving us because of what I tell him, was he worthy of our love in the first place? I'm honestly not sure how to start this.

"Did your parents ever spank you, Bryce?"

"Yeah. My dad spanked me pretty frequently when I was a kid, when I misbehaved."

Long pause. "Did you enjoy it?"

Bryce gives me a quizzical look. "Umm...no."

"Jason, Kenny and Dinh do enjoy it. They like to be spanked. So, I spank them, usually as a prelude to sex. I spank them in the basement."

I wait. I want him to process this, and I don't want to tell him how to process it. I want him to work it out for himself. After maybe a minute or so, he looks up. "Why do they enjoy it?"

That's not what I was expecting him to ask. "They tell me they like it because it lets them deal with stuff that they feel bad about, and because it makes them feel vulnerable. They like that feeling of vulnerability."

He nods. "This isn't just a gay thing, is it?"

"Nope. There are lots of straight couples that do it, too."

He nods again. "That's fine. I know some people are into this. Some people find it erotic. You guys do. That's fine."

"Sometimes, though, I've used the pain of a spanking to motivate certain behaviors. I did that for Robbie." Now Bryce is confused.

"Are you saying that you've had sex with Robbie?"

"Never. But I have spanked him. Robbie was the son of a close friend of mine, a single mom. She was having trouble motivating him to achieve in high school. His grades were pretty awful. Kathy, my friend, brought him to me. She felt he needed a `father figure'. So, Jason, Kenny and I worked with him on his school work math, science, English. When he didn't perform, I spanked him. He came back from his stint at the University of Chicago, an honor student I might add, and he admitted that he had no interest in what he'd spent the last four years studying. So, I spanked him some more. I spanked him until he got his motivation sorted out."

"And...umm...he let you do that?"

"He longed for it. He knew he needed it. Robbie is a very smart guy, but sometimes he needs a push to do what he knows he needs to do. Sometimes we all need that push. When he got back from the university, he needed a push to completely switch gears. I spanked him...frequently. It worked. Now he's doing something he loves, something that fulfills him."

You can see that Bryce is a little...lost, but he's processing all this, albeit slowly. "You okay?" I ask him, bringing him abruptly out of his reverie.

"Yeah," he says slowly. "Yeah, I'm okay." Those dazzling green eyes sparkle as he smiles. This conversation isn't over, I suspect, but it's over for now. The first skirmish is complete.

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We've all developed sort of unofficial roles with regards to the boys. Jason is the nurturer. He feeds them, gets them dressed and bathed, and takes them to the park. Kenny is the task master. He oversees their homework, ensures that they do their chores, and makes sure they get to school on time. Dinh is the civilizer. He wants them to be appropriately socialized and to behave courteously. And I'm the comforter. My job is the best of all. I cuddle them. I help them understand what went wrong when Dinh scolds them for acting out, and when Kenny scolds them for bad academic performance. I also, it appears, am responsible for their sex education. That's not a role I knew I had, but it's one I've ended up with. Kevin, our eleven year old, is on the cusp of puberty. His voice is changing, and he's just started to grow a few hairs down there. He and I have had the birds-and-the-bees discussion, both from the homo and hetero perspective. I've given him books and videos to help him understand what sex is, and I have the sense that he's working through that, slowly trying to figure out what sex means to him. Slowly is the way I want him to do this. There's no rush.

One morning he comes to me before breakfast in tears. I'm in the office working on email. He knocks, and pushes open the door. He's clearly very upset. He's also very naked. I'm in a heavy bath robe, and I'm a little chilled, and here is Kevin naked. "Kev, aren't you cold?"

"I'm sorry," he wails.

"Sorry for what?" I ask, confused.

"I wet the bed."

I look at him skeptically. Kevin hasn't wet the bed in years, and Kevin is a very well-adjusted boy. He's very happy-go-lucky. He's shown no signs of stress or emotional anguish in all the time he's been with us. I get up, lift him into my arms, and walk to the boys' bedroom. And, sure enough, there's a stain on the sheets where he usually sleeps. It's wet. But, it's a very small stain. It's just about the size of... I bend down and sniff. Then I smile. I sit down on the bed with Kevin on my lap. He's sobbing. "I'm so sorry. I'm so...embarrassed."

"Kevin," I say, "I want you to look at me."

He looks up into my eyes through his tears.

"If you'd peed in the bed, there'd be no need to be sorry, or embarrassed. Sometimes I pee in the bed. Did you know that?"

He looks amazed, and shakes his head.

"It's true. Sometimes when I'm really, really tired, and have had a little too much tea just before I go to sleep (actually it's Vodka that does this to me), sometimes I'll pee in the bed. So, when we get up, I wash the sheets and the mattress cover, and we're back in business. But...this isn't pee," I say, motioning to the stain.

Kevin looks confused.

"You remember when we talked about sex, I told you that when a guy makes love, he squirts a liquid out of his penis? It's called semen."

He nods.

"Well, sometimes, especially when you're young, you squirt that liquid out of your penis when you're asleep. Maybe you were dreaming of something really...exciting. They're called `wet dreams'. There's nothing you can do about them, baby, and nothing to be ashamed of. They just mean you're growing up. You've reached what's called `puberty'. So, here's a question. Does your penis get hard sometimes? It makes it hard to pee?"

He nods emphatically.

I smile and give him a hug. "Yeah, that used to happen to me all the time. I think it started when I was about a year older than you. That'll probably happen a lot from now on. Get used to it, Kev. It's not going to go away. But, there is something you can do to reduce the number of wet dreams. Have you ever rubbed your penis?"

He nods, smiling shyly.

"When you rub it, are you on your back or your tummy?"

"On my back," he says, quietly.

"Good." I carry him back to my bedroom, and pull a tube of lotion out of the nightstand. I hand it to him. "This'll help. Squirt some in your hand, and then rub your penis a lot. Rub it as long as it feels good. If you can, rub it until you squirt. If you feel you need a private place to do that, come in here. It'll feel really nice, and you probably won't have many wet dreams. Okay?"

He nods, giggling.

My first boyfriend couldn't cum in my presence, and when he masturbated, he did that on his stomach, rubbing himself against the surface of the carpet or the sheets on the bed. That was the only way he could get off. That's pretty limiting, and had crushed a number of his past relationships. I think it was an episode with his mother that caused this problem. She found him masturbating when he was very young, and threatened him. It destroyed his sexual responsiveness and made masturbation a covert activity he could only carry out in one very awkward way when no one else was around. And, if someone else walked into the room, he would just stop wiggling. I found his case tragic because he could never share his sexuality with anyone else. Sex was "bad". What a sad, sad tale. I don't want that to happen to Kevin. I don't want him to feel inhibited. I want him to relish in his sexuality, now and forever, amen, whatever that sexuality turns out to be.

I carry him back to his room so he can get dressed for breakfast.

How does one learn to jerk off? I learned from my father. My parents weren't especially close. One bright, sunny afternoon, I found my father out on the back porch stroking himself off, and my twelve-year-old life became very different, and certainly much more...blissful. I jerked myself off every morning, every evening, and often in between. I cleaned myself up with tissues that I threw on the floor. Mom picked them up and threw them away. She knew that they were filled with spooge and not snot. She expected it. She would have been disturbed if she hadn't found those tissues. She didn't care. I think that makes masturbation like writing. You should enjoy yourself, but wash your hands afterwards. (And, if possible, pick up your own tissues.)

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Thim is learning our names. Dinh, Jason, Kenny and I are all "Daddy." Evan is "Eeevan." Nathan is "Naaahan." Robbie is "Wobby." And Bryce is "Bwyce." He usually doesn't merely say these names. He usually shrieks them. Then he runs to you and climbs up your leg and into your lap. Now that he's walking capably, and even running a bit, he's nearly impossible to keep track of. Jason, always big on teaching responsibility, has put Tan in charge of tracking Thim because they like to play together. Tan's job is to keep Thim out of trouble. He can play in our back garden but not in Evan's, because of the pool, and he's not allowed in the kitchen or the office. Other than that he has pretty much free reign of the house.

The amazing thing about Thim is that he almost never cries. Once in a while if he's hungry or hasn't had his nap, he'll wail for a bit, but in general he's a pretty happy little boy. He loves Bryce. I'm not sure what the affinity is. Maybe it's that Bryce is very calming. Maybe it's that Bryce actually wants to spend time with him. I think Thim reminds Bryce of his own little brother, and so he's willing to cuddle with Thim for what seems like hours. In fact, on those occasions when Thim is cranky because he's missed his nap, he'll quite often crawl up on Bryce's lap and fall asleep. Bryce will carry him to his room, plunk him down in his crib, and tip-toe away. They're very cute together.

So, I'm not especially surprised when Bryce tells me that he'd like to do a session on families. He wants to show the kids who attend his sessions what alternate families can be. He wants to show them that gay people can actually have families by introducing them to his, or what's become his. I figure that he wants to take Thim to the Center, and let him motor from attendee to attendee while he talks about forming familial relationships outside of a family that doesn't support you.

That's not what he has in mind.

What he has in mind is to take all of us to the Center. He wants to take Jason, Kenny, Dinh, Nathan, Thao, Evan, Joaquin, Robbie, Kevin, Kai, Feng, Tan, Quan, Thim, and me. The whole mishpocka. Counting himself, that's sixteen of us. He wants to make this sort of a round-table discussion. He wants to give sort of a history of gay alternative families, talk about the structure of our family, and then throw it open to questions. My initial response is to back as far away from this idea as I can get. I mean, can't you see the faces of the parents of some of the kids we serve, parents who aren't supportive of the so-called "gay lifestyle?" The managing director of the center has three husbands, lives with two other couples, and has eight kids. They'd be out for blood. But then I remember two things. First, almost none of the parents of these kids know their kids comes to us, and second, I've already been interviewed by the Today Show. Now, I'll grant you, we didn't tell them about Kenny and Dinh. Matt Lauer assumed that Jason was my only husband. But, how would things change if owned up to my relationship with two other guys? That's the question I ask our board of directors.

Sandra Garvin, a long-time member of the board is concerned, but she's the lone voice against Bryce's session. Jorge Fernandez, the board president is very supportive, as are the other five board members. "If the fucking State of California is unwilling to let us marry, and if sodomy is legal in the U.S., that tells me you're free to make whatever arrangements you'd like. Unlike the good heterosexuals who are out there cheating on their wives and husbands, you've formed an open and monogamous relationship with three guys. I wouldn't hesitate to talk about that. I'd be a little careful about how it's presented, but I wouldn't hide it."

I nod. "Well, Bryce will be the one presenting it, so it should go over smoothly."

Jorge nods. "It'll be fine, and if it isn't, we'll support you."

The agreement I make with Bryce is that he'll introduce Jason as my husband, and Kenny and Dinh as our partners. The rest of the relationships as he understands them should be no problem. And...umm...he will not talk about the basement. If a discussion of sex between Jason, Dinh, Kenny and me comes up, he'll defer to me. He agrees.

This is clearly a very dangerous topic. Here in California we don't even have same-sex marriage rights, and I, a respected member of the gay community who is working with kids, am about to declare that I'm not only in a gay relationship, but a polyamorous gay relationship. This is going to blow a few minds. But, isn't it time to do that? Isn't it time to emancipate love? Because, honestly, families come in so many forms. Rick Santorum, the Pennsylvania senator who compared homosexuality to murder, bestiality, and polygamy, was partially right. Once you move "the family" beyond one-man-and-one-woman, you move into foreign territory, territory that could include multiple partners. Tell me again what's wrong with that. I dislike mormons for so many good reasons, but polygamy isn't one of them. Well...let me qualify that. The mormon church is built on a patriarchic model. That means that their polyamorous relationships were historically based one husband and a gaggle of wives. I object to the exclusivity of that. One wife should also be able to have multiple husbands. Who cares? Why is it anyone's business? Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've read all the stuff about Warren Jeffs, how his wives were basically slaves, how his children were sold into slavery at a very young age or had to endure incestuous relationships. But...do you remember Jim Jones? How was he different from Jeffs? They were both essentially evil megalomaniacs. Rather than outlawing multi-partner marriages, why not find a way to outlaw megalomaniacal evil, which has nothing to do with how many partners you have? If, as the christians tell us endlessly, gay people should not be allowed to marry because they can't procreate, and procreation is the mission of marriage, what on earth can they have against polygamy? The truth is that they just don't like it, and want to legislate against anything they don't like.

Finding a date for this session is a nightmare. How do you get eight busy adults together at one time? Ultimately, we decide to make it an evening session after 5:00 P.M. That brings its own set of nightmares. We always announce the topics of our sessions in advance, and we announce the speakers. Bryce is a big draw. We've typically run his sessions at 4:00 P.M. They're after school. We don't really want a lot of adults. The only time we can find that's convenient for this session is 7:00 P.M. on a Monday. We announce the date, time, subject and speakers. We ask for an RSVP this time so we can gauge the audience, and Jesus Fucking Christ, you can't believe how many of those RSVPs come in. We have five hundred and sixty-three confirmations in a matter of two days. We can't handle a crowd like that...thank god...because that gives us the ability to choose who we'll cut. We cut the press. We cut gay activists. We cut any name we don't know. That leaves us with two hundred and sixteen attendees. two hundred and sixteen I can deal with...once. two hundred and sixteen will get me in trouble with the fire marshal, but the fire marshal isn't on the list of attendees. I didn't cut the four members of the San Jose City Council who want to attend, nor our County Supervisor, the guy who performed the wedding ceremony for Jason and me all those years ago. I want them to know what families look like in the city they govern. I want them to understand who we are. Notably the honorable Mr. Reed, our august mayor, has no interest in the session. Why am I not surprised?

When that Monday rolls around, I am nervous, and even more so when we walk into the auditorium at 7:00 P.M. It is packed. The room is so full that we have to ask people to move aside so we can make our way to the front. Kenny is carrying Thim, who I think is a little freaked. He's never seen this many people before. He looks to be right on the verge of tears. Kenny, recognizing his distress, licks Thim's ear, and Thim starts to giggle uncertainly, and then to laugh. Quan, whom I'm carrying, also seems frightened, but I whisper reassurances as we make our way to the front of the room and he's fine.

Chairs have been set up at the front facing the audience, and we each take one, each of us with a kid on his lap. I hold Quan, Kenny holds Thim, Jason's got Feng, Dinh has Kai, Evan's got Tan, and Joaquin's got Kevin. It's a cozy little group. Well, maybe not so little. Once we're all seated, Bryce gets up and kicks off the session.

"Welcome. As most of you know, I'm Bryce Faulkner. I work here at the Center leading, among others, this session on how to be happily gay in a straight world. For those of you who've attended regularly, you know that my leading this session is a little ironic because I haven't always been happily gay. In fact, I spent a fair amount of time trying to become straight. It didn't work. Then, having convinced myself that my life was ruined, I tried to end it. Thankfully, that didn't work either. That left me only one alternative to try to be happy. That did work, largely because of my new family, a family of people who have come together because of their love for each other and their commitment to caring for each other, just like straight families. So, today I'd like to introduce you to my adopted family, or actually, to the family that adopted me, to the people who care for me, and who I try my best to care for. Let me start with the adults. This, as most of you know, is Tim Jensen. He's the managing director of this Center. He used to write computer games, but thought that his role here was more important. To his right is Jason Leong. Jason and Tim are legally married in the eyes of the State of California. Jason is a conductor with the San Francisco Symphony. To Jason's right is Kenny. Kenny is partnered with Tim and Jason. Kenny is a professor of Computer Science at Stanford. To Kenny's right is Dinh, partnered with Jason, Kenny and Tim. Dinh is just about to complete a doctorate in Computer Science at Stanford. Next to Dinh is Evan, one of Tim's adopted sons. He's working on a degree in Spanish language and literature at Stanford, and to his right is Joaquin, Evan's husband. He plays classical guitar with the San Francisco Symphony. Those are the adults. There are actually three others who couldn't be here, Nathan, who is a contract chef, Thao, who works here at the Center, and Robbie, who is the executive chef at Paolo's in San Jose. It's sort of a full house," Bryce says with a laugh.

"You can say that again," says one wag in the front row.

"Now to the children. On Tim's lap is Quan, one of Tim's adopted sons. And, on Jason's lap is Feng, another of Tim's sons. The squirmy little boy on Kenny's lap is Thim, Dinh's biological son. On Dinh's lap is Kai, Kenny's biological nephew. On Evan's lap is Tan, another of Tim's sons. On Joaquin's lap is Kevin, another of Kenny's nephews. That's my family. They're what keep me happy and healthy. They fortify me. And, I guess that's my message for today. When I gave up hope of being cured of my homosexuality and left the treatment program that was trying to make me straight, my parents disowned me. They wouldn't speak to me, and they wouldn't let me see my brother or sister. They were all lost to me, and that loss was part of what drove me to attempt suicide. It was the love and nurturing of this family that made me whole again. So, the message is that families come in many flavors, including this one," he says, motioning toward us, "a group of unrelated people, unrelated men, who have come together based on love. So, what I thought I'd do is open it up to questions. You can ask any of us anything you'd like to know. Questions?"

Hands fly into the air, and Bryce begins to pick them off one by one.

"How long have all of you been together?" one girl asks.

Bryce points to me. "Jason and I have been together the longest," I respond. "It's going on eight years. Kenny joined us six months later, and Dinh joined us a couple of years ago."

"Are all the kids from China?" a boy in the back asks.

Jason responds. "No. Kevin and Kai were born in Michigan, and Feng, Tan and Quan were born in Hong Kong. All of our children are ethnically Chinese, well, except for Evan," he says with a laugh. "He doesn't look much like us, does he? Where were you born, Evan?"

"San Jose," he says, dejected. "I'm not very exotic."

"Me neither," I add, giggling. "'Course, if we lived in Hong Kong, Evan and I would be the exotic ones. Maybe we should move." This gets me a twitter or two of laughter.

Then comes the question I've been waiting for, the one I knew would come. It comes from a boy off to the side. "Do you guys all...umm...have...sex?"

Bryce points to me. "Well, Jason, Kenny, Dinh and I do," I respond. There's a priceless two-beat pause while that statement sinks in, and then there's laughter. The same boy, still standing, asks the next question. "Do you have sex all together?"

My eyes narrow. "Do you jerk off?" The boy goes crimson, and looks away.

"Yeah," he says, quietly.

"How?" I ask.

"I...umm..."

"Don't answer that. It's none of my business, just as how we have sex is none of yours. The four of us have sex with each other. We love each other. We don't have sex with anyone else. We're each monogamous times three." The boy looks a little embarrassed. "I don't want to shut you down, but your question is irritating. The religious-right is fighting so hard against equal marriage rights because their position on sex is that anything outside of marriage is sin. If gay people can get married, that complicates the message."

A girl in the back relieves the tension by asking the ages of the boys, and then a boy in one of the middle rows asks why we wanted kids.

"I didn't," I reply. "I never wanted kids. And then circumstances intervened, showing me how wrong I was. When Kenny's sister was dying, she needed someone to adopt her sons. They were five and three at the time. They needed somewhere to live, and people who'd love them. We agreed to be those people, and I fell instantly in love with them. As for Feng, Quan, and Tan, they came from the abusive father of one of my oldest son's students. The father didn't want them. By that time we'd realized that we really love kids, so we agreed to take them. I couldn't love them more," I say, giving Quan a squeeze. "As for Evan, he was living on the streets. He was homeless, and when I realized how sweet he was, I offered to adopt him, to give him a home and a guardian."

Then a guy in the back row stands up, and I'm surprised because he's about my age. I thought we'd weeded out everyone but kids. "Do you think it's appropriate for children to be raised in a household full of gay men?" I look at him long and hard.

"Could you clarify the question?" I ask. "What would be inappropriate about that?"

"Well, your family structure isn't what anyone would call traditional, is it? You have four gay men who have sex together. Is that optimal for the development of your children?" I'm just about to answer this, to climb down this guy's throat, when Evan chimes in.

"Is it optimal for the development of children to be living with a mother who's a drug addict and who ultimately abandons her only son? She abandoned me to the mercy of a foster care system that'll place you with anyone willing to take you and the monthly stipend that comes along with you? I was sixteen. I was essentially unadoptable. Nobody wants a sixteen year old. Well, almost nobody."

"I think what you're suggesting," I say, "is that we're either immoral, or that we're going to turn these kids into fa...that we're going to turn these kids gay. I should probably clarify. We don't have sex in front of the children. We don't make them watch. And you can't turn anyone gay...or straight for that matter. That's how they come programmed. They come to you perfect, and they remain perfect. All of these kids were rescued from lives that were considerably worse than the fate of living among four sexually-active gay men. I frankly resent the..."

"I'm straight," Kevin says.

We all turn and look at him, incredulous.

"I've been raised by Tim, and Jason, and Kenny, and Dinh, and I'm straight. At least I think I'm straight. It'd be okay if I was gay, but I don't think I am."

The entire room is staring at my Kevin, and when he realizes that, he turns three shades of red. I'm very close to tears. I'm more proud of him than I've probably ever been. I'm more proud of him than when he's performed in a really-fine ballet. I'm more proud of him than when he's won a soccer game against Saint Francis Cabrini Elementary School. I start to clap, and then Kenny, Jason, Dinh, Evan and Joaquin follow. Soon the whole room is clapping. I give Kevin a thumbs-up, and when the applause dies down, we continue answering questions.

The session, which we'd planned to last an hour, doesn't end until 8:40 P.M. Half way through, Thim, who's been squirming, crawls down off Kenny's lap, and starts to wander the audience, motoring from person to person. Finally he alights in front of a boy in the third row, Michael, a regular at the Center, maybe even someone Thim has seen before. He grabs Michael's pant leg and hoists himself into his lap where he sits contentedly for fifteen minutes before falling asleep. Michael holds him affectionately. Children can sometimes be like purring cats. They bring the same level of tranquility and joy. Michael is rapt, and pays more attention to the sleeping Thim than to the rest of the session. They're fast friends.

When we finally conclude, we have a steady procession of audience members who make their way to the front of the room to congratulate us on a great session. Among them is the guy who asked whether it was appropriate for gay men to raise children. "I know my question was provocative. I don't know where I stand on gay adoption. I've always believed in the past that children belong with a mother and a father."

"Why?" I ask him.

"Well, because children need to see the interaction between the sexes."

"But, our kids see men and women interacting every day. They see it at school, in the grocery store, everywhere. It sounds like you think that heterosexual relationships are qualitatively better than gay relationships. I don't. I'm happy that Kevin thinks he's straight. He's at an age where he's become curious about sexuality, and has been trying to figure out what he is. If he thinks he's straight, that's fine. But if he'd told me he was gay, that would have been fine, too. I love the boy, not his sexuality. Whatever makes him happy is what I want for him. So, if he comes to me in four or five years to introduce me to his girlfriend, I'll be happy to meet her, but if he comes to me with a boyfriend, that'll be fine, too. I'm not trying to influence him, not that I could. Eventually he'll be whatever he is, and we'll cherish him for that." I find out later from one of the San Jose City Council members who attended the session that this guy was Patrick Joseph McGrath, the bishop of the roman catholic diocese of San Jose. This was the bishop who sent Thao my way when he confessed that he was gay and was questioning his faith. I should be grateful. Thao is clearly a blessing.

As we walk home, we form a little parade, all thirteen of us. I walk with Bryce, with Quan sound asleep slung over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes. I sense that Bryce is trying to figure out how to say something, but hasn't quite found the words yet. Finally, he gets there. "You know, what I said about you all being my family is really how I feel. I wasn't just trying to make a compelling speech. You've saved me...in so many ways. You saved me from Exodus and a loveless life, and you saved me from perpetual guilt. You saved me from death, and it wasn't by rushing me to the hospital or by getting me counseling. It was by giving me a family that loves and accepts me." I reach across and draw Bryce into a hug. Quan is now slung over both our shoulders. We hug for several seconds, and then start walking again.

I think I probably worry about my motives too much. I'm too introspective. If Bryce hadn't been really sweet, and really cute, would I have helped him? Probably. When we rescued him from Exodus, I'd never laid eyes on him, nor had I talked to him. Even when we were at Exodus, deciding how to get him out of there, I still didn't really understand the depths of his sincerity or goodness. That understanding came later, after I'd asked him to stay with us for a while, until he got his bearings. It was only later that I realized that I didn't want to let him go, but I didn't try to influence his decision to stay with us. He made that decision on his own.

What's also interesting is that he doesn't fit any of my standard relationship types. For me, there are friends, children whom I nurture, and lovers. Bryce falls somewhere between children and lovers. I love him sort of in the same way that I love Kenny, Jason, or Dinh, but I'm not sexually attracted to him. I want to protect him, I want to nurture him, I want to help him find himself, but I don't want to make love to him. I want someone else to do that, someone who can bring him out of himself sexually, and who can teach him the joys of intimacy, both physical and spiritual. And, I suspect I know who that someone might be.

Published first at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Nemo-stories/